Fired for Refusing COVID Vaccination Could Mean No Unemployment Benefits
Many employers have instituted vaccination mandates, including the United States Military and the Federal Government. As a result, it is possible that if fired after refusing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccination mandate, a person will have a tough time getting unemployment benefits, according to the Oregonian on Aug. 28, 2021.
The acting director of the Oregon Employment Department, David Gerstenfeld, during the Wednesday media briefing on Wednesday, clarified the agency’s reasoning: “Requiring somebody to be vaccinated during the midst of a worldwide pandemic is a reasonable policy.”
However, businesses must grant legitimate medical or religious exemptions. Although there are permissible reasons for a person to obtain a vaccination exemption, the list is short, Gerstenfeld disclosed.
Normally, unemployment assistance is available to workers who lose their jobs because they are laid off or fired but not for those who quit without “good cause.” It appears, based on Gerstenfeld’s explanation, that people who refuse to comply with their employer’s reasonable policies could be ineligible for benefits.
COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates Are Legal
Since the pandemic started, protesters have claimed that wearing masks, socially distancing and vaccination mandates violate their personal freedoms. However, their rallying cries fall on deaf ears, especially since both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have determined businesses are within their legal rights to require COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of coming to work.
A few months ago, the Houston Methodist hospital system’s vaccination policy made national news. They were the first company to require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Unfortunately, over a hundred staff members decided not to comply and were subsequently terminated. As a result, they filed a lawsuit which was summarily dismissed. Finally, on June 12, the judge told the former employees that Houston Methodist had not illegally required employees to be vaccinated.
Lawrence O. Gostin wrote for Scientific American:
The private sector has wide discretion in setting conditions for workers and customers, and businesses have a legal and ethical duty to keep the workplace safe.
Before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approved the Pfizer vaccine, the DOJ and EEOC specifically stated employer vaccination mandates were allowed even under the emergency use authorization (EUA). Therefore, it is not a stretch to imagine more companies will begin to require vaccinations.
The Supreme Court upheld states’ constitutional authority to mandate vaccinations twice. The first was Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905. The court decided it was within the power of the State to enact a compulsory vaccination law and impose a fine on the violators. Then, in Zucht v. King (1922), the justices agreed with the state mandating vaccinations as a condition to attend public and private schools.
COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates Are Ethical
The most common justifications for refusing vaccinations are bodily integrity, personal liberty, and freedom. While it is true everyone has the right to refuse medical intervention for their own good, their arguments are not sound, writes Gostin. On the contrary, vaccines not only protect the vaccinated person but their family, neighbors, and classmates, or coworkers. “No one has the right to go into a crowded classroom or workplace unmasked and unvaccinated.”
Moreover, requiring proof that a person is vaccinated — so-called vaccine passports — does not violate a person’s privacy because they are free to refuse to give the information about their vaccination status. However, if they do decline the information, they should accept reasonable consequences to ensure the community’s health.
Now is not the time for “me first” thinking. Thanks to the Delta variant being twice as infectious as the original strain, and tens of millions of American adults remain unvaccinated COVID-19, infections and hospitalizations are overwhelming hospitals and staff. Worse yet, is children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccinations and Delta seems to infect this age group more than predicted.
Vaccines are free for everyone 12 and older regardless of insurance or immigration status. And the same confidentiality between patient and doctor remains as it has been. No one will know if a person is vaccinated or not unless they choose to disclose their status.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Oregonian: Oregon says people fired for refusing vaccines generally can’t collect jobless benefits; Mike Rogoway
The Washington Post: Fired, sick or both: The financial price you could pay for choosing not to get vaccinated; by Michelle Singletary
The Washington Post: 153 people resigned or were fired from a Texas hospital system after refusing to get vaccinated; by Dan Diamond
Scientific American: Vaccine Mandates Are Lawful, Effective and Based on Rock-Solid Science; by Lawrence O. Gostin, Linda D. and Timothy J. O’Neill
AP: Biden orders tough new vaccination rules for federal workers; by Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, and Jonathan Lemire
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Inset Images Courtesy of Anthony Crider’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License